Bill Belichick won the coin toss and
took the wind instead of the ballin overtime last night against the Denver Broncos.
It’s a gutsy decision that we hadn’t seen in 11 years, and Belichick would have gotten torn apart if it backfired.
But when you look at the numbers behind it, you see that it was actually a rational move.
It’s important to keep this in mind: The only way the decision backfires is if Denver scores a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. With the new OT rules, the Patriots were guaranteed a possession even if Denver scored a field goal. So long as the Patriots kept them out of the end zone on that one possession, they had the advantage of the wind for the rest of the game.
And what were the Broncos chances of scoring a TD on the first possession?
Relatively low. 15.2%, to be exact.
Since the Patriots were kicking with the wind, they basically guaranteed that overtime would start with a touchback. Stephen Gostkowski hadn’t missed a touchback with the wind all night. So going into OT, Belichick was almost certain that Denver would start the drive at its own 20-yard line.
From 1999 to 2013, NFL drives that begin on a team’s own 20-yard line result in touchdowns 15.2% of the time. For comparison, 48.5% of those drives end in punts, and 14.4% of them end in turnovers.
When you factor in how difficult it is to pass into the wind, and how well the Patriots defence had been playing in the second half (letting up just seven points), Belichick had to like his team’s chances there.
It was certainly a gamble. Belichick took the 15.2% chance that his team would immediately give up a game-losing TD. But as long as his team came up with a stop, they had an inherent advantage for the rest of OT.
And when a Patriots punt late in overtime got caught in the swirling wind and deflected off a Broncos player to set up New England with a game-winning field goal, it paid off.